On Dec. 4, the Eden Prairie Lions Club will serve up golden-brown meats at the annual Wild Game Dinner, celebrating its golden anniversary this year. In Eden Prairie of 1973, Bob Hallett wrote, “The ducks would fly out of the river bottom to feed in the cornfields.” This year, the Lions Club is hoping that people will flock to the prepared meal.
A former principal at Prairie View, Forest Hills, and Eden Lake elementary schools in Eden Prairie, Hallett played a key role in founding the event 50 years ago. In a reminiscence piece for the Lions Club, Hallett noted that he came to Eden Prairie as a fifth grade teacher in 1963 and joined the Lions Club in 1964. “The town was mostly farm fields,” Hallett wrote.
As he rode the school buses to see where his fifth graders lived and to get to know the community better, Hallett, already a hunter, noticed “the great duck sloughs.” His students’ parents granted him permission to hunt on their lands.
Over the next few years, Hallett added other hunting spots in Eden Prairie to his menu: Al Picha’s slough, located in northern Eden Prairie across the railroad tracks from what is today Camp Eden Wood; the river bluff area then owned by Bob Levy, proprietor of the Flying Cloud Drive-in Theatre located directly south of Flying Cloud Airport, which is currently a waste facility; and the farms of Calvin and Ken Anderson on the north and south sides of Highway 5, the current sites of Wells Fargo Bank and St. Andrew Lutheran Church, respectively.
“For a number of years, we hunted the south side all the way to (the current location of) Oak Point Elementary School and on the north side from (the current site of) Home Depot to Mitchell Road,” Hallett said. “The duck and pheasant hunting was excellent, so one evening, Calvin and I decided we should do a wild game dinner with the game shot in Eden Prairie.” Herb Deroma, Eden Prairie Schools’ district food manager at the time, “said he would love to do it, so 50 years ago, the EP Lions Club Wild Game Dinner was formed,” Hallett said.
Deroma did the cooking for the event for approximately 20 years, adding elk, moose, raccoon, and opossum to the menu. The current chef, Ron Rodenwald, has expertise in cooking wild game and will prepare a repast for this year’s event that includes smoked salmon and dishes based on venison, goose, duck, and pheasant. “Two deer, 50 pheasants, 14 ducks, two geese: that’s what we have right now in the freezers,” Lions Club member Mike Gruidl said in late November.
The evening’s entertainment will be Eden Prairie High School football coach Mike Grant, speaking on “60 Years of Hunting and Fishing with My Dad (Bud Grant).”
Bud Grant, a former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, passed away in March of this year. The emcee will be Mike Max, sports director at WCCO-TV. Gruidl described Grant and Max as “colorful people, who tell good stories.”
Grant’s speech is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4, with the meal commencing at 6 p.m. The event will be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 16516 Luther Way. Tickets for the meal are priced at $30, with reservations preferred by Dec. 2; reservations can be made by contacting Mike Gruidl at email@example.com or 612-644-2323 or Steve Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-805-0762.
The event also includes a raffle and, “in keeping with the wild game theme,” Gruidl said, “100 percent of the proceeds from the raffle will be split among six to eight animal rescue places.” Past beneficiaries have included the Eden Prairie Outdoor Center, Secondhand Hounds, and Southwest Metro Animal Rescue.
The Lions Club is known for its philanthropy, donating 100 percent of the proceeds from its fundraisers, and has supported causes including scholarships for Eden Prairie students, the Minnesota Lions KidSight Foundation vision screening for young children, MoveFwd (formerly Teens Alone) housing and mental health support for youth, and Bloomington/Eden Prairie Meals on Wheels.
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